Aug. 8, 2012 at 3:15 PM ET
The Internet Archive was founded with the idea of being an Internet-based library of media and the Web itself, but as the collection grows, so does its bandwidth costs. Serving up terabytes of data is not easy or cheap — but adding BitTorrent into the mix should make things better for everyone involved.
Normally when you click the download link on one of the thousands upon thousands of audio tracks, movies or books, you would receive the file directly from one of the Archive.org servers. But the nonprofit organization announced Tuesday that it has added BitTorrent links to over a million files.
Using BitTorrent means users can download files from multiple Archive.org servers at once as well as from everyone who has also downloaded the file. It should increase download speeds and lessen the load on the archive's data centers, which can then focus more on backups, new submissions and so on.
Among the newly torrented files are more than 10,000 movies, over 100,000 audio tracks, and more than 1 million books. And all new files uploaded will automatically have torrents as a download option from now on. As would be the case in a regular library, most of the content is obscure and often very old, but it's all available for free and now you can get at it faster than ever.
While BitTorrent is often in the news because it can be used as a conduit for pirated media, projects like this emphasize the practical nature of the protocol: decentralized file transmission can be fast, anonymous and robust. And as Archive.org and others show, it can also be used for perfectly legal purposes.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.